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Jack leaves his Stalker behind

There are, famously, people who are famous just for being famous. Now, however, we hear about those claiming fame for having taught or employed the famous.

HMI's conference (page four) was told by its supremo Douglas Osler that Education Minister Jack McConnell had been appointed to his first post by someone who went on to become a member of the Inspectorate. "We subsequently gave him early retirement," Osler said gnomically.

McConnell himself quickly unmasked the culprit as Harvey Stalker, former chief inspector but then an adviser in Central Region. He is now contemplating his life's work away from the hurly-burly of performance indicators, quality management and raising standards.

Stalker may not have foreseen his future in the Inspectorate at the time, but he must have second sight. He told McConnell he didn't think the young recruit's future would lie in teaching: whether this was an early example of an assessment of teacher competence or a canny awareness of an unfolding politicl career was not immediately clear.

Another who claimed guilt - or was it credit? - by association was Maggi Allan, South Lanarkshire's director of education and former assistant director in Central. She was once McConnell's boss, she revealed to the assembled inspectors (nobody managed to come up with the collective description for a roomful of HMIs - suggestions welcomed).

As for Osler himself, it was a case not of "yes minister" but "thank you minister". Anyone who thinks Osler is chastened as a result of recent criticisms and is nursing his wrath over being hived off from Government HQ in Edinburgh's Victoria Quay to the outer darkness of the city's Saughton should think again.

The man is positively revelling in his independence and thinks his influence on ministers is undimmed. "You have done us a good turn, a favour by making us an agency - and we thank you for it," he told McConnell. The minister must have wondered what not doing the Inspectorate a favour amounts to.

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